Destiny 2 Impressions
Written by Beckett Van Stralen
To put it simply, Destiny 2 was in a compromising position with very large shoes to fill. While being extremely innovative as a new IP when Destiny released in September 2014, it wasn’t the experience people were expecting, nor what gamers were used to in terms of quality content released by Bungie. Luckily for the loyal gamers who stuck with Destiny in its vanilla state, through its mechanical rework prior to the release of The Taken King, and to its terminus with the release of Rise of Iron, your pained outcry has been heard. From my initial impressions, Destiny 2 has righted the wrongs made by its predecessor and has improved on its original formula in almost every single way, by adding a superb story campaign carried by gameplay variety, a strong narrative, stellar voice acting performances, and providing meaning and substance to activities that would’ve been considered a grind in Destiny. Guardians, you’re in for a treat.
As I write this, I have not yet completed the Raid, but I’ve completed my first Nightfall (more on this later). My Titan is my highest levelled character at a power level of 270, so I’d like to reiterate that this is not a review, but my personal first impressions only. The long and short of it, however, is that Destiny 2 has completely exceeded my expectations. So far.
The first thing that struck me was a moment of nostalgia. Even before entering Destiny 2’s main menu, you are prompted to go through your achieved milestones from Destiny. It reminds you that you conquered Oryx in The King’s Fall, or Atheon in The Vault of Glass, and it even goes to list who completed that activity with you and on what date. Destiny was the first game I ever poured myself into fully, and clocked more hours than in any other game I’d played. I remember the first time I played the Vault of Glass - we started at 9pm in the late evening and ended our run at 5am the following morning, and didn’t even complete the raid. I hadn’t thought about that experience in a long time, but reviewing these milestones before starting my new campaign made me look back at these memories very fondly. It was a reminder of the progress I’d made, and the journey I’d set out on to bring myself to this moment. It’s a nice touch that your previous achievements and victories are still recognized, even in a different game.
For Guardians looking to continue their journey in Destiny 2, unfortunately your hard-earned equipment, shaders, and emotes will not translate over to your characters from Destiny. The only remnants of your previous campaign come in the form of the aforementioned milestones and the physical appearance of your original characters. This isn’t entirely bad either - it allows players to familiarize themselves with the new weapon slot arrangement (having two primary weapon slots for kinetic and energy weapons, and one power slot for heavy weapons) and to get a feel for what kind of weapon is best suited to their playstyle. I will admit I felt a little disappointment when my “Enthusiastic Dance” and Thriller dance emotes didn’t translate over, because despite how arbitrary they were in the grand scheme of Destiny, there was never a reason to not break into random dance here and there.
When new and returning players begin their campaign, the difference between the start of Destiny 2’s campaign compared to the original’s will be immediately noticeable. The entire opening sequence up until you are free to explore Destiny 2’s new social space, The Farm, is driven purely by narrative, and you are pushed along a path ripe with cinematics and cutscenes (possibly more than we ever saw in Destiny), condensed into one mission. I’m happy to report that after completing the campaign, while the missions that came after Homecoming don’t reach the same heights until the very end, everything between still packs a narrative punch and delivers an excellent story that provides meaning to your actions and journey.
Once the campaign concludes, Destiny 2’s end game begins, and this is where the majority of your hours will be spent, increasing your gear’s power level so you can enjoy post-campaign activities like the Raid, the Crucible, Trials of the Nine, and much more, to get your Guardian’s power level to its cap. The first noticeable difference is that even though this part of Destiny 2 is essentially grinding, the newly added Adventures give you a scenario to play through instead of the mindless repetition of shooting, decoding engrams, equipping more powerful engrams, and repeating. At this time I haven’t engaged too much in these end game activities as I have been actively increasing my power level by playing strikes, the Nightfall, and public events. The rate of gear drops has also noticeably increased, and I even managed to nab an exotic engram during my most recent strike session.
Destiny 2 also allows for many different avenues of progression in the pursuit of legendary and exotic gear. Your Guardian now has a reputation level with the various vendors scattered throughout the Tower and in the open-world zones. Finding tokens specific to the zone you’re in can be redeemed at these vendors to increase your reputation level with them, which in turn generates decoded engrams. Spend a lot of time doing public events, and you’ll accumulate a large number of tokens that you can exchange. My favourite addition from this vein of progression is the Gunsmith’s reputation. Anytime I dismantle a weapon or piece of gear, it generates Gunsmith Materials which can be exchanged for reputation - and as I’m sure you can imagine, in the early stages of your Guardian’s progression, many, many items will be dismantled to make space for higher level engrams. I didn’t start increasing my reputation with these vendors until I’d hit the Level 20 mark, and when I went to the Gunsmith I was able to level up my reputation six or seven levels, and received powerful engrams immediately.
I will also note that once the power level of 265 is surpassed, gear at a higher level will only drop from activities that yield “Powerful Gear”. At this time these activities seem to be limited to the Trials of the Nine, the Raid, exotic weapon quests, and the Nightfall. Gear obtained from strikes, public events, and adventures will have a soft cap at around 260, and will be useful for dismantling for glimmer and legendary shards.
Public events have also been revamped - the rate at which they occur is much more frequent, often with multiple events happening at the same time in an open-world zone. Completing them nets you experience and engrams, similar to how public events worked in Destiny, but this time around each public event type has a Heroic Mode that can be unlocked by completing a specific task while the public event is occurring. Upgrading the public event to heroic allows for increased chances of better gear and nets your Guardian additional experience. Guardians no longer need to wait in an area for a public event to commence, or use a third-party application to reveal where the next event will be taking place - public events now appear on the Director Map with a timer counting down to when and where it starts.
Destiny 2’s Nightfalls have also been altered slightly. You are now racing against the clock to complete the strike, and if the timer runs out, the strike ends and your fireteam is automatically kicked back out to orbit. Additional time can be gained by jumping through rings that grant thirty additional seconds per ring, and by killing enemies. As of typing this I have completed the Nightfall strike after three attempts. The recommended power level is 240, and I first attempted the strike at power level 237, with two fireteam members levelled at 266 and 267. Despite their buffed power levels, we were not able to complete the strike, likely due to the fact I was not dishing out similar damage amounts. When I raised my power level to around 247, the difficulty became noticeably easier and I was able to complete the Nightfall with relative ease, despite having to race against the clock.
What I consider to be a blemish on Destiny 2 is the reworked infusion system. All item types can now only be infused with another item of the same type, and the item to be infused must also be an item of the same character class. For example, you will no longer be able to infuse a Titan chest armour piece with a Hunter chest armour piece. With weapons, you can only infuse an auto rifle with another auto rifle. This might be Bungie’s way of lightly pushing you to get back into the grind instead of using the gear earned by your highest levelled character, but during my time in Destiny, I didn’t mind the shortcut.
Based on my experience of Destiny 2 thus far, I’m very happy to report that Bungie has listened to the criticism from its fans, and has delivered a sequel that rights the wrongs of its predecessor’s in multiple ways. While there are some minor irritations, I believe with time, the new ways of progression in Destiny 2 will become commonplace, and the old processes will be slowly forgotten. The last pieces of the puzzle are experiencing the end-game at length, and besting the formidable Leviathan Raid. Stay tuned for updated impressions.